Preview: Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

Before this year’s Gamescom it had been a while since we last heard or saw anything when it came to DICE’s upcoming Mirror’s Edge sequel: Catalyst. Last week we did not only get a look into the world of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst by the team at DICE, but also a first taste of gameplay on the show floor. The world may have changed, but the core we’ve come to know and love is as present as ever, along with a series of changes and additions.STILLS_ME_0002_Layer 3After a seven year hiatus the franchise returns as DICE takes us on a somewhat different take on the world of Mirror’s Edge. Despite its great gameplay elements, dystopian world and other elements the team at DICE has chosen to restart the franchise, salvaging its redeemable elements whilst putting a major focus on elements such as storytelling, level design and fluidity in motion. Catalyst at its core is a creative reboot of the franchise, creating a dynamic on the original that is able to appeal to a broader audience with a more inspired manner of storytelling, whilst remaining true to the original concept. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is a very narrative-driven game, telling us the origin of Faith as her role within the world is set.

This creative reboot of the franchise exchanges the linear-design of the original for an open world structure that can be seamlessly explored by the player as he or she seems fit, without any loading screens to interrupt your exploration of this digital playground. As you move through the missions of the game more and more of the city of Glass will open up for you to explore, with many challenges within its walls to not only create diversity in gameplay, but challenge players and possibly even sharpen their skills. The world is setup in a way which’ll give players the option to find their own way through the world, which even extends to the story missions in which there will be recommended paths through runner vision, but also many other ways which may even be faster if you manage to find one.STILLS_ME_0001_Layer 4When it comes to combat the team has completely ripped out the gun mechanics of the original in favor of hand-to-hand combat, which often results in third-person finishers, that are much more satisfying than the out of place weapon mechanics. Every move of combat and traversal is sequenced into one of fluent movement. It’s a risky move that takes the game even further from it’s first-person shooter inspired gameplay, but it’s a strength in design that shows how dedicated the team is to working with the strengths of the concept itself, rather than simplifying it to accommodate FPS players.

Along with the refined mechanics Catalyst also has some new tricks up its sleeve when it comes to traversal. Faith’s glove may seem like a simple free-running accessory, but it’s a tool that might save your behind throughout the game with its uses. One of the examples is where the glove functions as a magnetic rope for the player to swing across gaps, if there is something to latch on available at least.  It has multiple uses, but we were left with this taster for the time being. There is also an upgrade system present, which’ll give players the chance to improve their parkour skills through the use of the glove. It doesn’t give Faith abnormal abilities however, it simply enhances what she’s been capable of by herself in the first place.STILLS_ME_0000_Layer 5As our presentation of the game ended we headed towards the show floor, where we were given fastpasses for the stage demo, where we’d get our first hands-on experience with Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. Rather than a level of the main story we were given 15 minutes to explore and play through challenges in a part of the city. After an initial setup we were given an introduction to the game’s controls, which are pretty easy to grasp, even for newcomers. When it comes to traversal there is no button for running, as that is Faith’s default setting, but vertical movement is essentially as simple as two buttons, each standing for up or down movements. Do you want to jump, wall run or climb something? You’ll need to tap the bumper on the left, whilst downwards movements such as crouching, sliding and such are registered by tapping the right bumper. It sounds more simple than it can be in practice though, since you’ll need to time everything accordingly to keep your movements fluid and uninterrupted, which is obviously preferable.

We started off with a small time trial, which set us to beat the AI’s score at a three-star system. For this mission we were given markers that set us up along a set path, but not every mission confines us in this way. In another challenge we were given the freedom of finding our own path towards the waypoint, which set us up on a timer that we would have to beat. I constantly found myself retrying this, as I kept looking and finding new ways/paths to get to the finishing line, which isn’t just a test of speed, but of concentration as well. STILLS_ME_0004_Layer 1Rebooting the Mirror’s Edge universe was questionable at first, but looking at the changes and directions they’re heading in it’s not even a question that DICE knows what made the original so great, and Catalyst may be the kickstarted the franchise needs to get back in the spotlight.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is currently scheduled for a February 2016 release.